Sunday, April 20, 2008
Out of the Unknown
Part of the fun of tuning in to nature is the learning. With my memory it's especially rewarding because I get to learn the same things over and over again. Tavia's Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher was a new one for me. I'm now wondering if the little gray bird with white tail stripes that I saw from a distance the other day might have been a Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher instead of a Slate Colored Junco like I assumed at the time. I'll never know but next time I'll look a little more closely before jumping to conclusions. I remember thinking at the time, "Haven't the Junco's left yet?"
The picture posted here was named "UnknownRedShrubFlower" in my pics folder until I stumbled upon it while browsing The Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants - Eastern/Central. The picture in the guide slapped me "upside the head." Because it's such a distinctive flower I knew it was a match. The unknown shrub has been transformed in my mind to Wahoo (Euonymus atropurpurious). I've seen this plant before, I think, but never took time to look it up. The picture here was taken last fall at Floyd's Fork Park in Jefferson County KY right along the creek. Hailed by it's exotic shape and brilliant red/scarlet foliage, flowers and berries I was compelled to stop the car and snap off a couple of pictures. I looked in the rear view mirror first, of course.
It turns out the plant is considered to have numerous medicinal uses and the fruit, seeds and bark are considered poisonous. I have to laugh. A beautiful unknown plant now has a personality. Not only is the personality bestowed with a history of herbal medicine, it has an absolutely intriguing name. Why in the world would it be called Wahoo? Could it be for it's tonic, laxative and diuretic properties? Perhaps, but I won't to jump to conclusions.